Preface: Spoiler warning for those who have not seen the show; if you are looking for a recommendation, then you have one and I would strongly suggest checking this series out as I see it as one of the better series to have come out in the year of 2016. It is a very well put together drama that really handles its subject matter well. Now then, time to get into the real review.
The point of the beginning of this series is to do two specific things, the first is to establish that the world our party of six is in isn’t one filled with sunshine and rainbows, and the second is to establish the fact that Manato is the leader of the group. The series quite quickly establishes the world by putting a rather serious emphasis on death early on, as well as showing that the six main characters are incredibly weak when it comes to fighting monsters, as they are shown struggling to take down a single goblin as a group, and even more clearly stated through Haruhiro’s thoughts during the first battle of the series: “I don’t want to admit it… but the goblins might be stronger than us” (Haruhiro Episode 1). During the second episode, we see another fight between Haruhiro’s group and a goblin, only this time, the group manages to kill the goblin, however, the fight had some physiological effects on the members pf the group, most notably: Ranta, who breaks down crying after pinning the poor thing to the ground, as it tried to run away, and stabbed it several times in its stomach, as it lay under him, crying out in pain; Shihoru, who loses consciousness for a brief moment, as she saw what Ranta was doing, before burying her head in Yume’s chest as she started to cry, and Haruhiro, who not only was stabbed in his left shoulder, but was nearly suffocated by the goblin, and, who after the fight, had significant difficulty loosening his grip on his dagger. The second, is also down very well, as it is very apparent that Manato is calling the shots; he seems confident, he’s loud but not harsh, he picks up his teammates slack, he wakes up earlier than anyone else to gather information about how to do better, and he even self draws a map of an abandoned town to better the whole squad; and it isn’t even until the end of episode three that someone finally states that he is their leader. That’s some subtlety. It’s also shown that Manato is also just a normal person, and not some kind of superhuman, as he explains to Haruhiro that he sometimes feels that he was born to be yelled at, and that he feels he wasn’t the kind of person that people typically treat as a friend, while also saying that he’s happy that all six of them are like a tight-nit group, willing to support one another. Haruhiro takes these words to heart, and tells Manato that he probably wouldn’t be there without his help and guidance, to which Manato replies, “If you guys weren’t here, I don’t know what would have happened to me”(Manato Episode 3). At this point, Manato has become a sort of mentor figure to the group, someone they can count on, or as someone they can go to if they need help; he has become someone who can be relied on whenever and wherever, and because of this, it becomes even more painful and difficult when he is no longer there to guide them. His untimely death is even more painful for Shihoru, because she had developed a romantic interest in Manato (though it is never expressly stated), and saw him as something more; her pain is made even more evident as the episode he is killed, is the same episode in which the two have a nice talk in the early morning where you really see Shihoru’s feelings, coupled with the fact that it is also the first episode in which she wears the hairpin he bought for her a long time ago. We also see Haruhiro
deny his death as he begs with healer they had brought him to. It’s not only his party that takes notice of his death, as the camera goes all around the town to show everyone’s faces looking up towards the sky as Haruhiro let’s go of his ashes and lets them fly into the wind; Manato was not only a good leader, but a good man as well, and the people of Grimgar took note of his loss, and that loss was felt most by those closest to him. The group was different after he was gone. They were lost, and weren’t themselves. They all started to act out of character, and they started act more rashly. They distance themselves from one another, and couldn’t think straight. Haruhiro, Ranta, and Moguzo leave the girls and go drinking at the tavern every night, and make decisions for the group by themselves, something Haruhiro picks up on later, and regrets. He also constantly asks himself and wonders, “What would Manato do?” (Haruhiro Episode 5). They pick up another party member, Mary, and without realizing it, start to expect the same things out of her as they did out of Manato; their reliance hadn’t changed. They knew nothing about who Mary was, and what her past was like and simply thought of her as a replacement for Manato. The original five hadn’t come close to getting over Manato’s loss, and with them being unable to talk about how
they felt, it only made things worse, as shown in a conversation between Yume and Haruhiro outside the bath house. This is when Haruhiro is finally able to get himself back together as he cries and laments his death, while he and Yume hold eachother close as he presses his end into her chest as tears flow down her cheek. The dark and dreary mood that had been ever-present throughout this episode are washed away as Shihoru mistakes the two as a couple, causing for some much-needed comic relief, that also symbolizes a turning point in the emotions of the characters; they were no longer going to let Manato’s death get them down, and were instead going to try to move forward, because that is what he would have wanted. The group decides they are going to make an effort to be nicer to Mary, while the boys decide they aren’t going to keep to themselves anymore as they start going to the tavern with both Yume and Shihoru. The group starts moving forward, and finally starts to make progress in regaining who they were and moving forward after Manato’s death. This progress is also shown in parallel with their chemistry with Mary. After the group learns about Mary’s past, and how she had lost three of her friends for the same reason Manato lost his life, being out of magic, they start making an even bigger effort to bring her out of her cold shell. Haruhiro, as the new leader of the group, takes it upon himself to take the first step, by explaining her the details of their past struggles with losing Manato. He calls her his friend, and this cases the rest of the group to chip in and agree with him, that she is just as valuable a member of the group as they are.
This also shows Haruhiro’s growth as a character, as he has to fill the void as the leader of the group in Manato’s absence, something he does not feel confident in, but after a few encouraging words from a ghostly Manato, he gains the confidence to do so. He starts making plans and taking charge, while also noticing the fighting styles and quirks of his party mates more, such as noticing Moguzo holding back because he doesn’t have a helmet or that Mary will only heal them outside of combat. He gains confidence in himself, and really starts to play the role of a good leader that can unite the group. Their chemistry grows stronger with each battle, and the loss of Manato, while they still feel the pain, have grown to live with it; such as how Shihoru begins to wear Manato’s hairpin again. The final push to get them over the loss of Manato, is during a fight with the same group of goblins who had shot and killed Manato. The group manages to push the goblins out of their hideout, but before they finish them off, Mary gets shot in the back with an arrow, just as how Manato was when he died, only this time, she survives, which makes a great symbol for how the group has grown stronger since his loss; the same things happened, only this time, they were strong enough to push through. Another symbol for how the group has grown, is the recovery of Haruhiro’s dagger, which he had dropped in the attack in which Manato had died; it was as if a part of him was still left in that city of goblins, and he had come and taken it back. Finally, during a long scene at Manato’s grave, Haruhiro makes a long speech about the group and how they’ve gotten stronger since he left them, and that they’ve finally become real soldiers, as shown by their dog tags, of which they bought a pair for Manato as well. Haruhiro said that it probably isn’t something Manato would have wanted, and that they should have spent that money on equipment, but that they did it anyway, against his will as if saying they had grown strong on their own, and that they could stop relying on him. Haruhiro explains that he never really knew much about Manato but that he thought he was a good guy. He says he thought he was perfect, and then
goes on to say that it may be because he never really knew him that well and that he would have liked to have. Finally, on the way back to town from the graveyard, Haruhiro asks Mary about her wounds, to which she replies that she healed them with magic, but that her clothes still have holes in them. Haruhiro then makes a statement about how magic also can’t heal emotional wounds just like how it can’t mend clothing, and that he can’t imagine what it must have been like for Mary to have lost three of her closest friends. Then, in the middle of the snow and cold, Mary had finally become a part of the group, just as the group had learned how to handle the pain of their loss. After a long struggle with themselves, they were finally able to handle the pain of their loss, and while it may never go away, they’ve learned to accept it and move forward. While Haruhiro still has visions of Manato, he never seems haunted by them, and instead sees them as if Manato were still with him, coaching him through his new role as leader of the group. Loss isn’t something most anime tend to handle in a way that Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash does; it takes around a third of the episodes of the show for the characters to accept their pain, emotions, and loss, but it never really leaves them as they think about the times before. Their pain isn’t over quickly and solved in the blink of an eye, and it never completely goes away, adding to the realism of this series. While this is certainly one of the series key points and one of the reasons why I think it is as great as it is, it certainly isn’t the only theme running in the series, far from it. But I think that’s where I’ll leave this review off for now. But don’t worry, I’ll cover some of its other themes in another review, and I’ll hopefully be better at this sort of thing next time. 🙂
End Note: If you’re reading this, thanks for sticking around so long, I know it’s a longer post than I usually do for a single series. Anyway, since this is my first post of this nature, It’d be nice to get some feedback from you readers. How’d you like it? What’d you like about it? What didn’t you like about it? Simply leave any feedback you have for me in the comments below, and also, since this is my first major post, it’d be nice if you guys could share it wherever you like, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. Every like, share, or comment really helps out a lot, and is greatly appreciated. Thanks for your reading, and continued support, until next time, have fun.